Autism, sociality and friendship: a qualitative enquiry

BAKER-ROGERS, Joanna (2018). Autism, sociality and friendship: a qualitative enquiry. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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In my thesis, I report on my qualitative enquiry into the meaning of sociality and friendship from the perspective of persons with autism. I sought to make a contribution to knowledge by describing: 1) the meaning that persons with autism attach to sociality and friendship; 2) the barriers that persons with autism encountered in experiencing sociality and friendship; and 3) how persons with autism see these barriers being overcome. Data was gathered from three primary data sources: video blogs, online interviews, and autobiographical accounts published in books. The narratives I reviewed had been posted or written by persons with autism and were subjected to thematic analysis. The enquiry methodology reflected my commitment to emancipatory disability research and my theoretical position of possibilities for an enabling narrative of sociality and friendship for persons with autism. My analysis of the data evidenced that my sources desired to socialise, make friends, and maintain friendships. Despite their successes in making friends and maintaining friendships, the sources distrusted their sociality that I labelled autistic sociality. The sources regarded predominant neurotype (PNT) sociality as the only trusted pathway to making friends and maintaining friendships. The sources positioned their sociality as a distinct pathway that they described as lacking PNT social skills and personal qualities that didn’t enable friends to be made and friendships to be maintained. The PNT meaning of sociality had been internalised by the sources as the correct, obtainable, and only way of being that resulted in their disadvantaged outcome. For me, the task of overcoming social barriers was regarded by the sources as being their responsibility alone, and could only be achieved by developing PNT social skills and personal qualities. Sources didn’t expect the PNT to gain an understanding of their sociality. I argue that this binary of autistic and PNT sociality resulted from encountering the disabling social barriers of normalcy and ableism. I also argue that overcoming these social barriers requires broader constructions of sociality and friendship that include the meaning described by persons with autism. An enabling narrative of sociality and friendship for persons with autism is, therefore, required that deconstructs the binary of autistic and PNT sociality for persons with autism and argues for a range of sociality and friendship possibilities across being human. There is I conclude one sociality that enables friends to be made and friendships to be maintained by both persons with autism and the PNT.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Jay, Tim [0000-0003-4759-9543]
Additional Information: Director of Studies : Professor Tim Jay
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2018 12:25
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:08

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